Music and Emotion in Victim-Impact Evidence

Emily C. Green · 16 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 169

Abstract

Aristotle famously said that the “law is reason free from passion,” and nothing arouses passion better than music. Thus when victim-impact evidence evolved from simple oral statements to include photographs, video footage, and musical clips, scholars and judges alike expressed concern that music might be too emotional and may make it difficult for the jury to make a rational decision based on logic rather than feeling. Recent scholarship in the field of law and emotion, however, notes that emotions are inevitable in law and further suggests that these emotions can be used constructively in the legal system. Thus, musically induced emotions may also have a role in the courtroom. By carefully considering current music-and-emotion research and analyzing the possible uses of music in victim-impact evidence, this Note concludes that under the current standard, music can have probative value to the jury, and suggests a framework for evaluating music in victim-impact evidence on a case-by-case basis.